By Hannah Sheely

SHERIDAN — When Gabbie Moore talks about the YMCA, it takes no more than two minutes before tears begin rolling down her smiling face. Sometimes, it takes only seconds. She is that passionate about the people who have molded her into the young woman she is today.

“It makes me cry whenever I talk about it just because it’s something that is very sentimental, and I’m a very sentimental person,” she admits as tears begin to sparkle in her eyes.

Her honesty makes it evident she embodies at least one of the four YMCA core values — caring, honesty, respect, responsibility — that emblazon the dozens of YMCA T-Shirts she has collected over her 18 years of calling the Sheridan County YMCA her second home. Within minutes, it becomes apparent the other three values are also rooted deep within.

She talks about how the coaches and lifelong friends she found at the YMCA — from Itty Bitty soccer at age 4 to 3-on-3 scrimmages nearly every night with her five best friends through high school — have positively impacted her life and how she hopes she has done the same for each child she herself has coached since stepping into the role in eighth grade.

As the YMCA continues its “Living Our Cause…Growing Our Cause” campaign to build a new aquatic center and increase its capacity for programming, Moore believes the expansion will enable more community members to lead healthy, fulfilling lives.

“I was able to find my passion here on the fields, and with the YMCA being able to expand it might help somebody else find their passion,” Moore said. “I think that gives your life a purpose and a meaning, and it makes you happy. And when you’re a happy person it just radiates from the inside to everybody else and they can see that. And when they can see that in you, I think it sparks something in them, too.”

Moore got a chance Thursday night to give back to the organization that gave so much to her.

Speaking through tears, she told her story to a crowd of 650 community members gathered at a dinner event in the Whitney Rink at the M&M’s Center. The speech was so moving, board President Ellen Treide jokingly lamented having to speak after Moore.

The event was held to celebrate a significant mark in the “Living Our Cause…Growing Our Cause” campaign. With gratitude, YMCA Executive Director Jay McGinnis announced that the YMCA has raised $15.1 million toward its $16 million goal.

Several large donations since spring 2015 — including two announced Thursday — brought the campaign to the 93 percent mark. Thursday’s event launched the community fundraising portion of the campaign with attendees being the first to pledge support.

“It’s just been an amazing part of our family, and it’s an opportunity to give back,” YMCA member Terry Burgess said as he and his wife, Bev, filled out their pledge form.

Burgess noted that all four of his children grew up at the YMCA. He said he could tell when he moved to Sheridan in 1984 that it was a vibrant community due in great part to the influence of the Y.

He has also seen the value of the YMCA’s before and after-school programs in his years working in education. By building a new indoor aquatic center next door to the current facility, the YMCA will be able to re-purpose the old pools and locker rooms into additional space for youth programming, classes for people with chronic diseases and more.

Event emcee Sen. Dave Kinskey, R-Sheridan, echoed the idea of community impact, starting with he and his eight siblings — “My dad said the youngest of the nine, Boo, was an experiment to see if the YMCA could raise one of your kids for you” — and radiating out to the generation who gave so much to build the YMCA in the 1960s.

“These folks built something, that yes, they enjoyed themselves and their children enjoyed it, but they handed it on to the next generation and the next, and that’s us,” Kinskey said. “There are people in this room that the founders of the Y never met, and yet they were so generous with their money and their time to make sure that the successive generations would have this tremendous gift.”

In the same way, Kinskey said, it is time for the current community to step up take the campaign over the top. He only had to point to Moore to show how much good the YMCA can do in a person’s life.